Sentiments, Separation, and Grief

About This Exhibit

Here are cards which depict the grief of separation. Go to the Grief and Separation Gallery to comment on this postcards.

Victorian and Edwardian Reserve

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At the onset of the First World War British morals remained largely rooted in the notions of decorum that had been associated with the Victorian and Edwardian periods. As can be seen, this was reflected in this series of cards, in which relations between men and women were treated in a formal and surprisingly detached fashion.

Pressure to Enlist


In the autumn of 1914, enlistment efforts went beyond subtle calls to perform one’s patriotic duty. Clergymen frequently used their pulpits to urge young men to join up. Young women would carry white feathers, and pin them to the lapels of men who were not in uniform. Others refused to go on dates with men who had not enlisted.

We can only wonder if ‘Papa’ has presented this card to ‘Mama’ to help soften the blow of his impending departure. Fears surrounding the results of enlistment cut both ways.

Pressure to Enlist (2)


The message here is far from subtle.



“Dear Hetty. I shall be glad when the last line on this card happens the other cards also express my feelings with Love & Kisses I remain Your Loving Husband XXXXXXXXXX Jim”

Images of Home and Family

Note the striking similarities that exist among the British, French, and German cards carrying these themes:

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The sanctity of the home and widely accepted notions of respectable domesticity were emphasized.

Dangers of War Foretold

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Although the dangers that a departing soldier might encounter were hinted at, the realities of war were largely glossed over. In August 1914 many Europeans on both sides of the conflict were convinced that the war would be over by Christmas. As is seen on these cards, known as the “Twilight Series” music from popular songs or hymns was often used to express the sender’s sentiments. This was a conventional practice, and one that in a famous instance, had helped to create an urban myth via a postcard.

Bamworth Company Cards

When the RMS Titantic sank in April 1912, the Bamworth Publishing Company of Leeds produced a commemorative card. It was from this rendering that the myth developed and spread suggesting that Titanic’s band had been playing the hymn ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ as the ship sank.

Wartime Series

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This series, oddly enough known as the “Patriot Series” , shows that Bamworths was reacting to the actual realities of war, including feelings of separation and loneliness, and the grief associated with loss. As the card in the lower right hand corner indicates, the series also demonstrates fears that the war would ultimately be meaningless.

Tender Thoughts

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“Dear Dick This card just suits me, its frpm my heart, its how I feel, and I hope my prayers will soon come to pass and be answered. Have not heard from you today.”


“My heart is too full for writing darling & this card is only a small part of the real feeling. Yours only Poll – All my love. XX”


Fathers and Children


“Hello Queenie how are you getting along what did you do when you had your holidays how is your garden getting on. Tell Mum I am quite well & hop you are a good little girl to her and do what you can. Well ta tat little one with love from Dad xxxxxxx”

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Cards From Songs and Hymns

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As we saw with the Bamworth card commemorating the sinking of the Titanic, the use of well known lyrics from popular songs and hymns was common prior to the war. As the following images demonstrate, the emotions associated with a long and costly conflict continued to be expressed in both words and pictures on postcards.

Years Go Rolling By

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These two cards speak to the awareness that the war would not end quickly, as had originally been predicted.

There’s A Long, Long Trail A-Winding

This 1915 song was very popular among English-speaking soldiers on the Western Front, and was especially beloved by Americans, who began arriving following the United States’ declaration of war in 1917.


“To Gladys With Best of Love From Your Soldier Sweet Heart Albert(.) Dear I am all ways thinking about you though you don’t know what I am doing because I am all over the place night and day but I can just think where you are and what you are doing.”


“To Gladys From Your Sweet Heart Albert xxxxx
I have not forgotten the long trail up Dovercourt Rd and along Davenport Rd. [Toronto]
It will be a fine walk when I get back with you.”


“To Gladys From Your Soldier Sweet Heart Albert xxxxxxx With Best of love.”